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Mattia Preti

Faith and Humanity

Sandro Debono
Giuseppe Valentino

304 pages, color & b/w illus, 9789993274377, $52.50, Paperback, Midsea Books, English
Published: 5/1/2013

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2013 marks the 400th anniversary of the birth of Mattia Preti. This important occasion is being marked by an exhibition organized by Heritage Malta and the Comune of Taverna, where Mattia Preti was born. The exhibition is the final stage of a three year process during which the works of Preti have been studied and revisited. The exhibition together with the Catalogue is the culmination of this journey. The Catalogue includes 9 papers by leading art scholars and historians, some of whom are publishing for the first time their findings after the recent studies of Prettiís paintings. The Catalogue also includes entries of the 49 art-pieces and artifacts forming part of this unique exhibition. Much passion and commitment has gone into the making of this project. Dignity is perhaps the intended objective which to our great satisfaction also received the positive support of some of the major European museums including the Louvre, Prado, Musei Vaticani, Brera, Uffizi, Capodimonte and Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Barberini amongst others. This common intent shared between Pretiís two historic realities, the native city of Taverna and Malta, spurred the curators to reap the desired results and achieve the intended objectives of this complex cultural project.

The backbone of this project is a scientific research project proper concerning Pretiís works in both Taverna and Malta, particularly the National Museum of Fine Arts, and goes beyond art historical research to include scientific investigations undertaken jointly by Tavernaís Laboratorio di Restauro Conservazione e Ricerca and Heritage Maltaís Conservation Division at Bighi. The scientific investigation carried out on Pretiís Martyrdom of St Catherine of Alexandria, in particular, yielded unexpected results and confirmed the iconographical attributes of the martyr saint lying underneath. We hope these results will be the scope for more debate and discussion for the international academic community to take further. All this empowered us to read deeper into Pretiís works in both Taverna and Malta and guided our selection of works to feature in the exhibition.

The 400th anniversary of Mattia Pretiís birth makes us all proud of a shared heritage which this project rethinks and consolidates. Vincenzo Bonello, who contemporary to Alfonso Frangipane and Valerio Mariani, rediscovered Mattia Pretiís legacy and corpus of works in Malta transformed all this into a powerful identity construct mostly effective during colonial times. Pretiís ideals have thus moved beyond any delimiting borders on to our times, four hundred years later and, from this safe distance, empower us to objectively assess his exceptional creative trajectory. Preti can now be read as a noble man who strives hard with his art to get back what his family had lost a few years before his birth. His quest transformed him from knight to a monk of war ready to do battle in the name of his spiritual and social affirmations which can be fully recognized in the ideals of Faith and Humanity.

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